Surveillance Abuse in the USA

I wonder if Google will threaten to stop operating in the United States once it turns out our government’s been up to snooping malfeasance:

The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions.

E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. The stream of urgent requests for phone records also overwhelmed the FBI communications analysis unit with work that ultimately was not connected to imminent threats.

The FBI’s general counsel assures us that this was all “good-hearted.” And those reassurances keep coming down the pike. After each revelation of illegal surveillance, we’re assured that these abuses aren’t that kind of abuse — like the kind where J Edgar Hoover (who remains an honored figure in the FBI, with the headquarters building named after him) spied on Martin Luther King Jr, or Richard Nixon used counterterrorism powers against domestic political enemies. We’re talking about some whole other kind of innocuous, good-hearted abuses.


And who knows, maybe they are. But how many times does “good-hearted” abuse need to go unpunished before something more insidious happens? I find the political complacency in the face of these surveillance abuses to be really stunning. I get that many people figure that the whole arbitrary detention and torture thing is something that’s supposed to happen to other, browner people with funny names. But we don’t need to guess about what happens when the government has unrestricted surveillance power — it’s a story we’ve seen already.